A chill wind whips through the streets this morning, carrying with it a white mist that swirls and eddies about our feet like the slinking of a cat. Overnight, the dusty market town of Phou Koun has been cloaked in a thick fog that is so dense in places, we can hardly see a few feet in front of us.
The construction work we saw on the hill towering above town yesterday is barely perceptible through the haze. We had to significantly edit the photo below, greatly increasing contrast just to make the outline of a hillside and crane the slightest bit discernible!
Under the shroud of frost-colored fog, the marketplace which forms this small town's backbone is vibrantly visible against its neutral backdrop. The stalls are bustling with colorfully-kerchiefed women filling their basket backpacks with the vivid green produce of the season, everything from cabbages to kale, to peppers and papayas.
Preparing for the day's ride, I lean my bike against a building and go for a walk in search of riding fuel. I pick up a smoothie, some oranges, some fried bananas, roasted chicken wrapped in palm leaves, and a few pieces of colorful triple-layered jellylike dessert that tastes of coconut.
Meanwhile, Tyler sits on the steps of the nearby mobile phone shop, chatting with our friend Kong.
We've heard our route will be downhill all the way to Vang Vieng, but instead of the long, easy descent we're hoping for, our road begins to curl upwards from the moment we pedal out of Phou Khoun. I don't the mind the unexpected climbing, for the skies are nice and clouded, and the pedaling keeps me warm.
Mist swirls around us, layering our clothes with dew, as we pedal up and up through captivating Lao villages, rendered even more dramatic by the weather. This ride is supposed to harbor some of the most stunning landscapes in all of Southeast Asia, but we can't see anything further than a few feet down the road. We're not bothered by the lack of visibility in the slightest. The fog is awesome!
I hope this day in Bunker Hill finds you well. I'm in Laos right now, thinking of you every time I see a woodpile, which is often. Though it doesn't get colder-than-a well-dig here like it does at home, the temperature drops at night in the mountains, and people stay warm by their efficient little fires. I think you would like it here; it smells of woodsmoke.
I miss you, and I love you very much,
Rolling slowly through the quiet mountain villages, adults smile and wave, and their adorable children sing a ceaseless chorus of "sabadeeee!" as they come running after us. Stopped in our tracks by their mobs of cuteness, shy waves, exuberant giggles, and high fives, we are overcome by their enthusiasm, smiling ear to ear. This is so much fun!
One of the things I love most about Laos is how the people care for their babies. I find it so heartening to see everyone pitching in with the infants, from grandparents, to parents, to siblings, someone is always holding them. Some kids look like they're hardly old enough to walk themselves, and yet here they are, toting around their brothers and sisters!
After a hundred meters or so of ascending, we've reached the top at last. Smiling to one another, we exchange a huge high five, congratulating ourselves for completing our last mountain climb in the misty landscapes of northern Laos. Time to coast!